I have a bad habit, nay a handicap that has been a problem for my professional life, and blighted some of my social life as well.
When I was a wee little writer, knee high to a folio, I’d published five or six short stories and had a novel in the laborious process of being produced, and I would go to conventions and not say much (at least career pertinent. People have tried to calculate the energy needed to keep me from SPEAKING altogether, short of near-death illness and it might approximate the energy necessary to ignite a small universe) and would try to keep a low profile, because what the heck did I have to promote yet? And what could I think of my achievements?
I’m not very far off that now. I prefer to state what I’ve done, mention the latest book if it warrants mention, or needs push to sell (if you haven’t bought Through Fire, I’d appreciate it if you do, because that screwed up release is hurting it) but I don’t actually brag about my attainments. What attainments? I’m a chick who has written almost three dozen books and who manages to make a modest living of doing what she likes best. It’s not like I’ve saved lives, cured cancer, single handedly managed a moon shot, or even discovered a minor species of insect in a far off jungle. I don’t even, unlike Stephanie Osborn, have no deep knowledge of important subjects, I can’t make computers do my will like my husband and Kate Paulk can. And even my kids have more useful knowledge than I do.
I’m me, I write books, and bless you all, they allow to live.
I can’t imagine getting up on a panel podium and going “I’m the best thing sliced bread WITH butter!”
I am not. I am metaphorically speaking just someone who tells lies for money, and not nearly as good as Clifford Simak, much less Robert A. Heinlein, whose sandals I’m not fit to untie.
To be fair, this bad habit of mine is shared by such people as Kevin J. Anderson, David Weber, or most of the rest of the Baen stable, to include Correia and Ringo. They get up there, with mega bestsellers behind them, and what they want to talk about is their stories and this cool story they’re working on, or else something or other they saw or lived that shaped them.
Why is this a bad habit? Well, early on in my career I saw people with one or two stories published — and sometimes with none — who could get on a panel and project “I am the very model of a successful writer.” I once had a friend of mine, with two published books and a stalled career, do this to me when I had ten books out and two series going. Somehow in talking, at a party, she projected — likely intentionally, but possibly not — that she was the established writer and I was the has been.
This talent has numerous advantages. People tend to treat you as you present yourself. One of the reliable ways to get publicity backing out of ny publishing is to act as though you’re already a success.
I can’t do that.
I wish I were able to, because I suspect there is more success down that path.
On the other hand there are risks too.
You knew I was working up to tell this story. When I arrived here was two days after Portugal, a creditable underdog, won the European soccer championship. Which was fine, as I understand the streets were clogged with people celebrating and one couldn’t go anywhere.
Notably, I’ve seen more Portuguese flags everywhere than I’ve seen in my whole time growing up here. This seems to have revived the national pride which was low even prior to EU.
It was only 24 after my arrival that my dad told me the story of the epic soccer match which took place in Portugal.
Apparently, the French team arrived in specially painted buses, bearing the French flag and underneath the words Champions of Europe.
They were so sure of their victory they had their buses painted both for the victorious turn about Paris afterwards, and for the trip out.
That would have been fine had they won. As it happens, they lost. Which means their braggadocio turned to bitter tears after the game, even while on the field.
Now, mind you, arriving with the boast on the side of the bus probably did intimidate the local team and make it more likely they would lose. Which would be fine, if the French had been able to carry it through.
So, this embarrassing issue of my not being able to brag might cost me, but at least I’ll never know the humiliation of bragging with nothing to back it.
Also there is a lot to say for the fact that we’ve become a culture of bragging and appearance and not actual accomplishments. And I prefer accomplishments.
But I still wish that institutions — and publishers — in general could distinguish between ability to brag and ability to do.
Yet all in all, it will save me from bragging of what I can’t deliver.
It could be worse.